|Publication number||US20090150958 A1|
|Application number||US 12/372,894|
|Publication date||Jun 11, 2009|
|Filing date||Feb 18, 2009|
|Priority date||Apr 3, 2000|
|Also published as||CA2405491A1, CA2405491C, EP1275249A2, EP2063639A2, EP2063639A3, US7975277, US7992166, US20090150957, US20090150959, WO2001076245A2, WO2001076245A3|
|Publication number||12372894, 372894, US 2009/0150958 A1, US 2009/150958 A1, US 20090150958 A1, US 20090150958A1, US 2009150958 A1, US 2009150958A1, US-A1-20090150958, US-A1-2009150958, US2009/0150958A1, US2009/150958A1, US20090150958 A1, US20090150958A1, US2009150958 A1, US2009150958A1|
|Inventors||Dean F. Jerding, Arturo A. Rodriguez|
|Original Assignee||Scientific-Atlanta, Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Referenced by (9), Classifications (28), Legal Events (2)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is a divisional of U.S. Patent application entitled, “System for Providing Alternative Services,” having Ser. No. 09/542,484, filed Apr. 3, 2000, which is incorporated by reference in its entirety.
This invention relates in general to the field of television systems, and more particularly, to the field of providing services in television systems.
Historically, television services have been comprised of analog broadcast audio and video signals. Cable television systems now receive broadcasts and retransmit them with other programming to subscribers over land-line networks, typically comprising fiber optic cable and/or coaxial cable. With the recent advent of digital transmission technology, cable television systems are now capable of providing much more than the traditional analog broadcast video. In addition, two-way and advanced one-way communications between a subscriber and a cable system headend are now possible.
In implementing enhanced programming, the home communication terminal (“HCT”), otherwise known as the settop box, has become an important computing device for accessing video services and navigating a subscriber through a maze of services available. In addition to supporting traditional analog broadcast video functionality, digital HCTs (or “DHCTs”) now also support an increasing number of services which are not analog, but rather digital; are not basic broadcast, but rather two-way communication such as video-on-demand; and are not basic video, such as e-mail or web browsers. These are all in addition to the host of other television services which are increasingly being demanded by consumers, examples of which include audio and audio/visual programming, advanced navigation controls, impulse pay-per-view technology, and on-line commerce. In addition to the interactive services, the increased bandwidth available through a digital television system has made it possible for a subscriber to have access to hundreds, or even thousands, of channels and/or services. Thus, in order to provide these more powerful and complex features, the simple conventional channel abstractions need to be extended beyond those which have traditionally been provided.
Each HCT or DHCT (collectively hereinafter “DHCT”) is typically connected to a cable or satellite television network. The DHCTs generally include hardware and software necessary to provide the functionality of the digital television system at the client's site. Preferably, some of the software executed by a DHCT is downloaded and/or updated via the cable television network. Each DHCT typically includes a processor, communication components and memory, and is connected to a television or other display device, such as a personal computer. While many conventional DHCTs are stand-alone devices that are externally connected to a television, a DHCT and/or its functionality may be integrated into a television or personal computer, as will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art.
Because many separate services may be offered by a single cable television service provider to each individual subscriber, including television viewing channels as well as other applications, there is a need for the DHCT to not only be able to provide each service that the cable television system provider offers but also be able to flexibly control access to services that are denoted as premium services. In addition, certain television programs can now be broadcast in advanced formats, such as in high definition television (HDTV) format; however, there is currently no mechanism for efficiently handling such advanced formats to effectively integrate them into systems which must also continue supporting older formats.
Briefly described, the preferred embodiment of the present invention provides a system for providing alternative services in a television system. In one implementation, a subscriber is provided an alternative service upon attempting to access an unauthorized service, thereby providing a framework for efficient control of conditional access and enhanced services. In addition, in one implementation, user device limitations or variations are handled conveniently through the same multi-purpose system for providing alternative services.
According to one implementation, a client device receives from a server device and stores in client device memory a service database and an authorization database. The service database comprises references to a plurality of services and reference to a plurality of corresponding channels, and said authorization database comprises a list of authorizations individual to said subscriber or DHCT and corresponding to said plurality of services. The client device accesses the service database when the subscriber attempts to access a desired channel to determine a first service corresponding to the desired channel. After learning which service corresponds to the desired channel, the client device then determines whether the subscriber is authorized for that first service according to the authorization database and presents the first service to the subscriber on a display device if the authorization database reveals that the subscriber is authorized for the first service. However, the client device will present an alternative service according to the service database if the subscriber is unauthorized to receive the first service.
In another implementation of the present invention, the client device provides a subscriber an alternative service upon a subscriber's attempt to access a service misconfigured or unsuited for the subscriber's equipment, such as a display device coupled to said client device, or the client device itself In this embodiment, in addition to mapping alternative services to certain services in the service database, the service database includes information for each service regarding a required viewing configuration, such as a high definition television format. In much the same way as above, the client device automatically provides the appropriate formatted version of services.
Other objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to one with skill in the art upon examination of the following drawings and detailed description.
The invention can be better understood with reference to the following drawings. The components in the drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon clearly illustrating the principles of the present invention. In the drawings, like reference numerals designate corresponding parts throughout the several views.
In one implementation, a memory portion 29 of the DHCT 16 includes flash memory 31 and dynamic random access memory (DRAM) 32 for storing the executable programs and related data components of various applications and modules for execution by the DHCT 16. Both the flash memory 31 and the DRAM memory 32 are coupled to the processor 24 for storing configuration data and operational parameters, such as commands that are recognized by the processor 24.
Basic functionality of the DHCT 16 is provided by an operating system 33 that is contained in flash memory 31. One or more programmed software applications, herein referred to as applications, are executed by utilizing the computing resources in the DHCT 16. The application executable program stored in FLASH memory 31 or DRAM memory 32 is executed by processor 24 (e.g., a central processing unit or digital signal processor) under the auspices of the operating system 33. Data required as input by the application program is stored in DRAM memory 32 and read by processor 24 from DRAM memory 32 as need be during the course of application program execution. Input data may be data stored in DRAM memory 32 by a secondary application or other source, either internal or external to the DHCT 16, or possibly anticipated by the application and thus created with the application program at the time it was generated as a software application program, in which case it is stored in FLASH memory 30. Data may be received via any of the communication ports of the DHCT 16, from the headend 11 via the DHCT's network interface (i.e., the QAM or out-of-band tuners) or as subscriber input via receiver 26. A type of input data fulfills and serves the purpose of parameters as described below. Data generated by an application program is stored in DRAM memory 32 by processor 24 during the course of application program execution.
Availability, location and amount of data generated by a first application for consumption by a secondary application is communicated by messages. Messages are communicated through the services of the operating system, such as interrupt or polling mechanisms or data sharing mechanisms such as semaphores.
The operating system 33 operates a broadcast file system (BFS) client module 41. The BFS client 41 is in constant communication with a similar module on the server side (BFS server 55 in
The BFS 41, 55 is implemented to appear to applications as a standard hierarchical file system that is common in computer operating systems. The underlying mechanism for transporting files from a headend server 11 to a DHCT 16 relies on a broadcast data carousel mechanism (not shown) that in a preferred embodiment is compliant with the carousel channel specification of the ISO MPEG-2 (Motion Picture Experts Group—Second Standard) entitled Digital Storage Media—Command and Control (DSM-CC). Uniform resource locators (URL) specify “bfs:” as the protocol identity files on the carousel.
Also contained in flash memory 31 is a navigator application 35, which provides a navigation framework for the subscriber to access services available on the cable system. Examples of the services include, in one implementation, watching television and pay-per-view events, listening to digital music, and an interactive program guide, each of which is controlled through separate applications in flash memory 31. The navigator 35 also allows users to access various settings of the DHCT 16, including volume, parental control, VCR commands, etc.
Watch TV 42 and Pay-Per-View (PPV) 44 are resident applications in flash memory 31. Watch TV 42 enables a user to simply “watch television” while PPV 44 enables viewing of premium television services. These applications, because they are in flash memory 31, are always available to the subscriber and do not need to be downloaded each time the DHCT 16 initializes.
The flash memory 31 also contains a platform library 36. The platform library 36 is a collection of functionality useful to applications, such as a Timer Manager, Compression Manager, a HTML Parser, Database Manager, Widget Toolkit, String Managers, and other utilities (not shown). These utilities are accessed by applications as necessary so that each application does not have to contain these utilities thus resulting in memory consumption savings and a consistent user interface.
A Service Application Manager (SAM) provides a model in which the subscriber can access services available on the system. A service consists of an application to run and a parameter, such as data content, specific to that service. The SAM handles the lifecycle of the applications on the system, including the definition, initiation, activation, suspension and deletion of services they provide and the downloading of the application into the DHCT 16 as necessary. Many services can be defined using the same application component, with different parameters. The SAM includes a SAM server 56 (
In an alternate embodiment, the same parameter can be invoked by different applications. For instance, HBO can be viewed in a conventional manner or with an application that provides service enhancements for an additional purchase fee. Examples of aggregate functionality included as service enhancements include: the right to record and save the service to a storage device (a.k.a right to copy); the right to pause, stop, resume play, rewind and fast-forward on a real-time basis when DHCT 16 contains internally or externally a media recording device with storage capabilities (but without the right to keep a permanent copy in storage); and the right to receive the service in superior audio quality such as Dolby AC-3 rather than in stereo. Thus, the SAM 37 provides a subscriber alternative versions of the same service, each a service enhancement with aggregate functionality. When the subscriber initially activates a service, the SAM 37 attempts to first provide the most-enhanced service to the subscriber before providing a less-enhanced or basic service based on the subscriber's authorization status. A service enhancement is authorized to a subscriber upon the subscriber purchasing the service enhancement as a subscription or a one-time period (i.e., pay per view) for a purchase fee. If a subscription of the alternate enhanced service is purchased, then each time the authorized subscriber accesses the service, the service is rendered with the authorized aggregated functionality. If the most-enhanced service is not authorized to the subscriber, then the SAM 37 attempts to provide a less-enhanced service or a basic service. In much the same way as described herein, the client device automatically provides the appropriate version of the enhanced services based on the subscriber's authorization status.
Various application clients can be downloaded into DRAM 32 via the BFS or other means, such as TCP/IP, at the request of the SAM 37. An application client is the portion of an application that executes on the DHCT 16 and provides the application's services to the subscriber typically through a graphical user interface. The applications that are stored in the DRAM 32 may be applications that are loaded when the DHCT 16 initializes or are applications that are downloaded to the DHCT 16 upon a subscriber-initiated command using an input device such as the remote 27. In this non-limiting example, as shown in
The applications shown in
The digital network control system (DNCS) 53 provides complete management, monitoring, and control of the network's elements and broadcast services provided to subscribers. The DNCS 53 includes the definitions of sources, digital storage media command and control (DSM-CC) user-to-network configuration of DHCTs in the network 20 and conditional access management. The application server 51 communicates via the Ethernet 52, through an operational system 54, to the SAM server 56 contained on the DNCS 53. The application server 51 defines a particular application to the SAM server 56, and the SAM server 56 instructs the BFS server 55 to add the particular application's executable code and possibly one or more data components related to the service to the carousel (not shown) for distribution to the various DHCTs of the network 10. The SAM server 56 provides various features for each application that directs its execution in the network 20. In preparation to introduce the application, the SAM server 56 also provides a mapping from the display channel number presented to the subscriber to the service, and vice versa, including the capability to have one service on a channel for a specified time and another service on that channel for a different specified time. The SAM server 56 additionally provides an interface on the SAM server 56 to specify service-related data, and the SAM client 36 on the DHCT 16 provides an interface to access this information efficiently. The SAM server 56 contains information and configuration data whereby applications and services on the DHCT 16 can be activated and suspended remotely by the SAM server 56 by a signaling message.
A subscriber is generally able to navigate on any individual channel of all the channels available by the DHCT 16 for viewing the corresponding service mapped to that channel as denoted by the channel mapping table contained in the SAM database 40. However, it is also generally understood that a subscriber may or may not subscribe to each individual service provided or offered by the cable television systems operator. The DHCT 16 contains in DRAM 32 an authorization database 47 containing the authorizations of all services for the subscriber utilizing that specific DHCT 16. The authorization database 47 is periodically updated by the headend 11 to denote any changes in the subscriber's available services.
Authorization information can be specified using the SAM server 56 for each service in the service table. This information can include a conditional access “key” specific to the system that can be delivered to specific DHCTs 16 in a secure manner and processed by a security processor (not shown) and/or conditional access components (not shown) housed in DHCT 16. It also can include an alternate service to use if the given service is not authorized. As an example, the service table 62 contains pointers 64, 65, 66 routing a service to a different service other than the first service so that the second or subsequent service is an alternative to the first service which may be prohibited to an individual subscriber.
With additional reference to
The navigator 35 may then present the subscriber with several options that range from either a denial of service, an opportunity to purchase the service, or a routing to an alternative service (which may include a service offering purchase of the first service). Traditionally, the simplest solution is to merely present an unauthorized message screen to the user on channel 9 denoting that the subscriber has not paid or purchased that particular service. The navigator 35 may also be configured to present the subscriber an opportunity to purchase the prohibited service, in this case, HBO, either as a subscription or a one-time fee similar to pay per view by inputting commands through the remote 27 to acknowledge the purchase of the HBO service. Such an opportunity may be provided through a “purchase HBO” service available as an alternative service, as discussed below. In providing the subscriber the opportunity to purchase the prohibited service, the navigator 35 may present descriptive information about the individual service features and functions as a marketing attempt to entice the subscriber to purchase the prohibited service.
As stated above, a service, in an alternate embodiment, may also be provided in one of a multiplicity of alternate service modes, each mode corresponding to an alternate service with aggregate functionality. A subscriber that purchases an enhanced version of the service is authorized to receive the respective enhanced version of the service. A service provided in a multiplicity of alternate service modes can be rendered through SAM 37 with different respective applications for each enhanced version of the service or combinations of different multiple versions of enhancements. Alternatively, a single application can render one or more, or possibly all enhanced versions of the service by querying the subscriber's authorizations as previously described. Navigator 35 may also automatically use the SAM 37 to activate and present the subscriber an alternative service, as in step 106, for the subscriber to view which may either be a service already in the subscriber's viewing plan or an alternative service that is more economical or currently available as opposed to the prohibited service. Alternatively, an enhanced version of the service may be presented to the subscriber for purchase as either for a subscription fee or a one-time period fee similar to pay per view. Continuing the non-limiting example, when the navigator 35 determines that the Watch TV+HBO service is not authorized, it queries the SAM 37 to determine if there is an alternate service, as in step 108. The SAM 37, in step 110, checks its database 40 and determines that the alternative service is the Encore service, as in step 1 12. In this case the navigator 35 repeats the authorization query with the SAM 37 for the Encore service, and if it is authorized presents the service by activating it using the SAM 37, as in step 102. The transition from the HBO service via route 64 may be automatic or transparent to the subscriber, with the possible exception of the identification that the transition of the services has occurred. However, if the Encore service is also not authorized, the SAM 37 will report this fact to the navigator 35 after accessing the authorization database 47, as in step 104. The navigator 35 will then ask for an alternate service to the Encore service, and continue until an authorized alternate service is reported by the SAM 37 (steps 90-112). Continuing with this non-limiting example, if the subscriber is not authorized for the Pay-Per-View alternate service (the alternative service to Encore referenced by pointer 65), the service table may route or may point to a default barker service via pointer 66 which generally informs the subscriber that channel 9 is not a service option available to that subscriber within his or her viewing plan. If none of the alternate services are authorized, the navigator 35 will display a default unauthorized service message to the subscriber, as in step 114. It should be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art that the routing of services is not confined to movie services or channels, but rather that the routing of one service to another may be configured by the system operator at the headend 11 so that similar services may be routed from services that are either premium channels or more desirable services at premium prices.
In an alternative embodiment, the DHCT 16 may be programmed or configured to properly present data to a display 21 configured for high definition television (“HDTV”). A problem with channel mapping arises with the advent of HDTV for subscribers who may or may not have HDTV viewing capabilities.
A subscriber identifies with the navigator 35, using an interactive settings GUI, such as a configuration setting, the type of television set display 21 that is connected to the DHCT 16, such as an HDTV or a standard television (“STV”). In normal operation, SAM 37 is informed of dual or multiple carried services or programs through the service information 61, 62 that identifies the services. Multiple SAM 37 services for the different programming configurations (such as for HDTV and STV) are defined and transmitted throughout the network 20.
In one embodiment, the channel line-up exposed to a subscriber is automatically composed for and limited to the subscriber's display type. The application that displays program data to the subscriber for viewing selection (hereinafter referred to as the interactive program guide (IPG) (not shown) is provisioned to limit display of program data to only those channels compatible to the subscriber's TV format. Thus, the IPG must retrieve from the SAM 37 which channels or programs are available to the subscriber based on the subscriber's TV format. The navigator 35 using the SAM 37 also limits the subscriber to tuning to only those channels that are suitable to the subscriber's display type.
In an alternative embodiment, the navigator 35 allows a subscriber to request display of any channel and the alternate service authorization mechanism described previously is used to activate the service that provides the appropriate format. A conditional access “key” is defined for the HDTV format, and embedded in the service definition for HDTV services. Those services are mapped to the channels. The alternate service for each of the HDTV services is the standard format service. Thus, if a subscriber has an STV display 21 but attempts to tune to an HDTV service, the navigator 35 and SAM 37 use the alternate service mechanism described earlier to ultimately activate the standard service.
As a non-limiting example, as shown in
Some channel attributes are shared for the different formats of a particular service. Thus, service table 62 may include multiple services with the same broadcast logo or same channel station call letters if the services are offered in multiple feeds. Alternatively, different versions of the attributes may be used to indicate different levels of service. Thus, the basic “NBC” call letters may be implemented for the NBC service in STV format while “NBC-HD” may be used to signify the NBC feed in HDTV format.
In still another alternative embodiment, the SAM 37 receives from the SAM server 56 the information required for a watch TV application a service parameter such that any number of display formats and their corresponding sources are identified. For example, a service for CNN may be defined whereby the service application includes a watch TV application that supports multiple feeds and the service parameter would include the multiple sources and a designation of the display type for each source. When activated by the SAM 37, the watch TV application would check the configuration of the DHCT 16 and tune the source corresponding to the supported display 21.
Alternative services, as discussed above, additionally includes modification of services or feeds for presentation of information in different formats or in enhanced formats from the original feed. As a non-limiting example, if the target channel chosen by the subscriber is a single feed regardless of whether the format is suitable for the subscriber's display 21, a format conversion takes place in the DHCT 16 to scale the picture display to match the subscriber's TV format. Hence, a singly-carried channel or program, regardless of the format, does not prevent reception and display of the program but forces a number of format conversion operations that result in a converted picture.
The DHCT 16 is capable of receiving all MPEG-2 (Motion Picture Experts Group second standard), MP/HL (Main Profile, High Level), and MP/ML (Main Profile, Main Level) formats to decode any of these compressed digital video signals but maybe limited to produce a single video format as its output. The DHCT 16 performs any and all conversion operations necessary to display video on a single TV set configured, for example, as a STV. Thus, a service formatted for HDTV would be converted to STV format if it was a single feed so that the subscriber could view the service. Likewise, STV formatted services could be converted to HDTV format for subscribers with HDTV displays 21. The result is that the DHCT 16 presents the highest quality image available to the display coupled to the DHCT 16 as determined by the configuration set by the subscriber.
Other subscriber equipment can also cause alternative services to be implemented for reasons in addition to unauthorization or HDTV/STV as discussed above. As a non-limiting example, different models of DHCTs in the network 20 may render execution of certain applications unavailable for a variety of reasons. For example, the processor 24 in an older model DHCT 16 may operate too slowly to execute a new application, so the older model DHCT 16 would implement an alternative service referenced by the new application. In this example, the alternative service would be compatible to the capabilities of the older model DHCT 16 with the slower processor 24. Other subscriber equipment such as video cassette recorders and certain types of television sets 21 may place technical restrictions on the type of applications that the DHCT 16 may execute and thereby require implementation for alternative services compatible to a subscriber's equipment. It should be obvious to one of ordinary skill that alternative services can be implemented by the DHCT 16 for various reasons, and not just for the few examples as described above.
The alternative service program, which comprises an ordered listing of executable instructions for implementing logical functions, can be embodied in any computer-readable medium for use by or in connection with an instruction execution system, apparatus, or device, such as a computer-based system, processor-containing system, or other system that can fetch the instructions from the instruction execution system, apparatus, or device and execute the instructions. In the context of this document, a “computer-readable medium” can be any means that can contain, store, communicate, propagate, or transport the program for use by or in connection with the instruction execution system, apparatus, or device. The computer readable medium can be, for example but not limited to, an electronic, magnetic, optical, electromagnetic, infrared, or semiconductor system, apparatus, device, or propagation medium. More specific examples (a nonexhaustive list) of the computer-readable medium would include the following: an electrical connection (electronic) having one or more wires, a portable computer diskette (magnetic), a random access memory (RAM) (magnetic), a read-only memory (ROM) (magnetic), an erasable programmable read-only memory (EPROM or Flash memory) (magnetic), an optical fiber (optical), and a portable compact disc read-only memory (CDROM) (optical). Note that the computer-readable medium could even be paper or another suitable medium upon which the program is printed, as the program can be electronically captured, via for instance optical scanning of the paper or other medium, then compiled, interpreted or otherwise processed in a suitable manner if necessary, and then stored in a computer memory. Furthermore, any process descriptions or blocks in flow charts should be understood as representing modules, segments, or portions of code which include one or more executable instructions for implementing specific logical functions or steps in the process, and alternate implementations are included within the scope of the preferred embodiment of the present invention in which functions may be executed out of order from that shown or discussed, including substantially concurrently or in reverse order, depending on the functionality involved, as would be understood by those reasonably skilled in the art of the present invention.
It should be emphasized that the above-described embodiments of the present invention, particularly any “preferred embodiments” are merely possible examples of the implementations, merely set forth for a clear understanding of the principles of the invention. Any variations and modifications may be made to the above-described embodiments of the invention without departing substantially from the spirit of the principles of the invention. All such modifications and variations are intended to be included herein within the scope of the disclosure and present invention and protected by the following claims.
|Citing Patent||Filing date||Publication date||Applicant||Title|
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|International Classification||H04N7/16, H04N21/6587, H04N21/442, H04N21/438, H04N21/488, H04N21/2668, H04N21/458, H04N21/4627, H04N21/482|
|Cooperative Classification||H04N21/4383, H04N21/44204, H04N21/2668, H04N7/165, H04N21/4826, H04N21/4627, H04N21/6587, H04N21/4882, H04N21/4586|
|European Classification||H04N21/482R, H04N21/4627, H04N21/488M, H04N21/442C, H04N21/6587, H04N21/2668, H04N21/458U, H04N21/438T, H04N7/16E3|
|Jul 27, 2009||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: SCIENTIFIC-ATLANTA, LLC,GEORGIA
Free format text: CHANGE OF NAME;ASSIGNOR:SCIENTIFIC-ATLANTA, INC.;REEL/FRAME:023012/0703
Effective date: 20081205
|Feb 2, 2015||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4